A recent raid in Thailand uncovers an unscrupulous but lucrative business venture in this digital age.
The Bangkok Post on Monday reported that Thai police officers and soldiers raided an apartment near the Cambodian border suspected of running a fraudulent call center business. What they uncovered though was a different kind of online venture – a “click farm”.
For the uninitiated, a click farm is basically an online service that sells ratings, traffic, and popularity to its clients. Whether it’s artificial hits on a website, or app rating reviews on Google Play Store, or mere likes and comments on Facebook pages, click farms make a living off the marketing nuances of the digital, networked age. An online client wants a hundred thousand likes on his or her Facebook page by the end of the month? No sweat for these click farmers, just cough up the dough.
The click farm venture was operated by three Chinese nationals – Wang Dong, Niu Bang, and Ni Wenjin – who rigged several metal racks hosting hundreds of iPhone 4S, 5S and 5C units wired to different computer displays. A total of 474 iPhones, 347,000 unused local SIM cards, 10 computers, and other miscellaneous electronics and gadgets were confiscated by the joint agency raid.
According to the Post’s report, the men said that they were working for an unnamed Chinese company who supplied them with the handsets and that they were individually paid around $4,403 (~Php 220K) monthly to “boost engagement on WeChat for products sold online in China.” The company chose Thailand as their base of operations because of the cheap smartphone usage fees.
The Chinese nationals were then arrested on several charges, including smuggling, overstaying their visas, working without a permit, and using unregistered SIM cards. The authorities are currently probing on how the trio was able to smuggle in a large number of expensive iPhones into the country, as well as acquiring hundreds of thousands of SIM cards without proper registration with the local telcos.